Three Healthy Hanukkah Recipes
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With eight nights of presents, parties and songs, gripping stories of an ancient war fought and won by a band of heroic brothers, spinning dreidels, and chocolate coins, Hanukkah is a holiday made for children if ever there was one. But while every holiday poses nutrition challenges for parents, Hanukkah can be particularly tough. The entire celebration focuses on oil and the accompanying foods can be, well, oily. Finding healthy alternatives while upholding age-old traditions may seem like an especially formidable task. Fortunately, with little extra effort, you can stick to your nutritional guns and eat your latkes, too.
First, the good news: The traditional oil of Hanukkah is heart-healthy olive oil. In fact, according to some historians, long before the Maccabees and Syrians ever battled it out in Jerusalem, the ancient Jews rejoiced this time of year with a Festival of Lights to mark the end of the olive harvest.
It wasn't until the Maccabees reclaimed the temple from the Syrians around 165 B.C. that this winter festival came to be known as Hanukkah, or dedication, in honor of the rededication of the temple. A single jar of olive oil survived the Syrian's ransacking, enough to keep the holy altar lamp burning for one day – but it burned brightly for eight. A holiday was born. To this day, Jews the world over celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah by eating deep fried foods like potato latkes and jelly doughnuts.
Despite their widespread popularity, potatoes and jelly are fairly modern interpretations of classic Hanukkah fare. We've added a few twists of our own – such as replacing regular potatoes with nutrient-dense sweet potatoes, adding apples to regular potatoes, baking instead of frying, and using whole fruit in place of sugary jelly – to up nutritional content and minimize the damage of eating these delectable treats eight days in a row.
Hanukkah is full of distractions, but preparing delicious and wholesome celebratory foods together provides the perfect opportunity to share with your children the story of Hanukkah, lessons about making healthy – or at least healthier – food choices, and the moments lifelong memories are made of.
Sweet Potato Latkes
Sweet potatoes, often called yams, are packed with beta carotene, vitamin C, manganese, copper, vitamin B6, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber. Replacing regular potatoes with these nutrition powerhouses makes for nutrient-rich latkes. We recommend using dark orange-fleshed garnet or jewel yams for this recipe, but any type of sweet potato will do. Have your children help by peeling the sweet potatoes and measuring and mixing the ingredients, but keep them away from the hot stove during cooking.
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 medium onion, shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup matzo meal
Olive oil for frying
Applesauce or low-fat sour cream for serving
In a large bowl, combine eggs, sweet potatoes, onion, salt, and pepper using two forks. Add matzo meal and mix to combine well.
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Drop the batter by large spoonfuls into the skillet, flattening with a spatula to make pancakes about 3 inches across. Cook until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn pancakes over and cook another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or so until browned on the second side. Repeat process with remaining batter, adding more oil to the pan between batches as necessary. Drain on paper towels before serving. Serve latkes hot with applesauce or sour cream.
Makes about 48 latkes.